Philadelphia, popular Philly, is the most populous city in Pennsylvania (over 1.5 million residents) and the sixth-largest in the USA. Located around 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of New York, it is also among the most historic destinations in North America.
Philadelphia is the birthplace of American independence, the former US capital, and much more. It features rich nightlife, attractive shopping, world-class museums and galleries, and fine dining at many restaurants serving local and international specialties. With most attractions and points of interest close by, you don’t need to worry much about where to stay in Philadelphia during your trip.
Since dozens of millions of travelers visit Philadelphia just from the USA, I suggest booking a holiday lodging for your stay well in advance.Given that you secure a room in downtown Philadelphia, corresponding to the narrowest section between the Delaware River and the Schuylkill River, you’ll be within walking distance to most city highlights.
- If You Are in a Hurry
- 1. Old City – where to stay in Philadelphia for the first time
- 2. Center City and Midtown Village – best for shopping and nightlife
- 3. Rittenhouse Square – best for a luxury stay in Philadelphia
- 4. University City – best for youths and art
- 5. Fishtown/Northern Liberties – stay for an authentic experience
- 6. South Philadelphia – best for foodies
- BONUS: things you should know before visiting Philadelphia
If You Are in a Hurry
Here you can find the best hotels for your stay in the most attractive areas in Philadelphia. Whether you travel for sightseeing, entertainment, shopping, or dining, I believe you will find them suitable.
The Rittenhouse Hotel
Best luxury hotel
Elegance Meets Charm
Airbnb in the city center
MORRIS HOUSE HOTEL
Best value for money
Affordable accommodation in the center
With all its different neighborhoods, Philadelphia can be confusing if you have never visited before. So here is an handy map of all the areas I will be discussing in this post.
1. Old City – where to stay in Philadelphia for the first time
Old City is a Philadelphia neighborhood sandwiched between the Delaware River, the natural border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and Center City. I find the area teeming with tourist attractions, and you will need minutes to get from the Independence Hall to Liberty Bell and the Museum of the American Revolution. These places occupy Independence National Historical Park, while the neighboring area abounds with brick houses and other historic buildings you don’t want to miss. Do check out Christ Church (visited by Benjamin Franklin in the past) and the oldest residential homes in Elfreth’s Alley.
Besides sightseeing, you can visit a farmers market which takes place every Wednesday from May to November at Christ Church. Moreover, many designer stores in the Old City welcome present and future fashionistas. Nightlife is ubiquitous, and you will travel in time by visiting taverns present since the Liberty Bell sounded in 1776. This historic neighborhood is about 20 minutes away from Philadelphia International Airport by taxi and approximately twice that by public transport, traffic permitting.
The hotel is right next to Independence National Historical Park. Stay in quiet rooms and suites and take photos of the area from the rooftop lounge. Build up your muscles at the fitness center, work at a business center, and admire room decor worthy of a royal palace. Portions at the ground-floor restaurant may be large enough for two people.
Other Accommodation Options in the Old City:
Things to Do in the Old City
- Visit Independence Hall, the verification site of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution
- Acquaint yourself with Benjamin Franklin, the founding father who signed mentioned and two other documents, at Benjamin Franklin Museum
- Tour ships at Independence Seaport Museum
- Admire the Delaware River at night
- Check out contemporary art galleries in the district
2. Center City and Midtown Village – best for shopping and nightlife
Center City, named after one of five city squares, is another of the best neighborhoods to stay in Philadelphia. Also, it is the second most inhabited city area nationwide. Thanks to the grid-street design introduced by William Penn, you’ll get around with ease.
Since this part of the city is home to many imposing skyscrapers defining the city skyline, sightseeing will stretch your neck ;-). The neighborhood also prides itself on beer gardens and a diverse bar scene, offering you plentiful opportunities for bar-hopping between walkways and rooftops. For premium dining at first-class restaurants and LGTB-friendly nightlife, you’ll wish to check out Midtown Village.
Pamper yourself at the hotel’s spa, eat burgers at the restaurant, have specialty drinks, sleep like a monarch, and have tea in the garden during your stay. Friendly staff goes the extra mile to make you feel at home and assist with whatever you may need. To stay in good shape, practice at a fitness center.
Other Accommodation Options in Downtown Philly:
Things to Do in Center City/Midtown Village
- Take a walk to Washington Square, a memorial ground honoring participants in the American Revolution (1765 -1783)
- From there, proceed to Magic Gardens, an open-air art venue full of mosaics 🙂
- Spend some money at Reading Terminal Market, one of the oldest and largest markets in entire America
- Admire Philadelphia City Hall, America’s largest municipal building, topped by the statue of William Penn, the founder of Philly
- Wet throat at Giuseppe & Sons Bar (Sansom Street) and Good Dog Bar and Spin Bar (both on 15th Street)
3. Rittenhouse Square – best for a luxury stay in Philadelphia
Located in the heart of downtown Philadelphia, Rittenhouse Square is the most upscale neighborhood in the city. The namesake park lends its name to the area, which teems with high-end hotels, stores selling luxury goods, nightclubs, speakeasy bars, and lounges. Visit One Liberty Observation Deck, located on the 57th floor, to admire the Philadelphia skyline, and attend performing arts at the esteemed Kimmel Center and Academy of Music.
Furthermore, enjoy the sun in the Rittenhouse Square park and pack some snacks, it is a great picnic spot! You will be very close to most downtown points of interest and historic attractions, as well. Walking to Independence National Historical Park, boasting several historic attractions related to the American Revolution, will take you around half an hour. You’ll need even less time, no more than 15 minutes on foot, on average, to get to University City, just across the Schuylkill River.
This non-smoking hotel has spacious rooms with modern amenities, such as iPod docking stations and plasma TVs, and hypoallergenic extras. Treat yourself with delicious cookies and drinks at the first-floor lounge, and spend romantic time with your partner by the fireplace in selected rooms. To catch up with your family and friends, make use of free and fast wifi.
Other Accommodation Options in Rittenhouse Square:
Things to Do in the Rittenhouse Square Area
- Dine at Parc, a French-style bistro overlooking the park
- Visit The Rosenbach to lay eyes on rare books and attend various programs and exhibitions
- Browse stores and art galleries between Chestnut Street and Walnut Street
- Evoke scenes from Hollywood movies while visiting Delancey Place
- Treat your taste buds and catch up with the latest fashion trends during the Rittenhouse Row Festival
4. University City – best for youths and art
This highly dynamic district abounds with bars, international restaurants and art venues. Penn Museum, displaying artifacts from around the world, and the Institute of Contemporary Art are top exhibition spaces in the area. To get from one to another, allocate 10 minutes tops.
Since you are coming to this part of Philly, plan some time to admire local architecture embodied in Victorian-style structures. Finally, bring a blanket and a few friends to picnic in expansive Penn and Clark parks. Famous Farmers Market in Clark Park, which you will definitely want to check out, takes place every Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm.
Secure a room at the higher floors to admire the city panorama during sunrises or sunsets. Do some workout at a 24-hour gym or swim in an outdoor pool if you prefer getting wet this way. An on-site Asian restaurant will make you love Oriental food if you don’t love it by now. Spacious rooms feature room service.
Other Accommodation Options in University City:
Things to Do in University City
- Examine photos and paintings at the Institute of Contemporary Art, located within the University of Pennsylvania campus
- Look into ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek, and other artifacts, as well as American, African, and Asian exhibits at the Penn Museum
- Admire Auguste Rodin’s sculptures at the Rodin Museum on Benjamin Franklin Parkway
- Take photos of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from the base of Rocky Steps, immortalized by iconic Rocky movie scene
5. Fishtown/Northern Liberties – stay for an authentic experience
Fishtown and Northern Liberties neighborhoods, located north of the downtown along the Delaware River, are much different from the city center. Getting around won’t take you much time since these Philly districts are quite compact. Once low-key neighborhoods, they became cool places offering diverse nightlife and dining options at all kinds of international restaurants. Go to local clubs to dance and affordable bars to have Irish drinks and other booze.
Speaking of Fishtown and Northern Liberties tourist highlights, I suggest you visit Penn Treaty Park by the river and former home of celebrated writer Edgar Allan Poe. You’ll find that Fishtown is an up-and-coming district of Philadelphia clinging to its authenticity. Few-story buildings made of brick, community gardens, and a diverse mix of people walking the streets testify of its former “glory.”
Located in Fishtown, this 4* apart-hotel offers 650-75 ft2 (60-70 m2) stylish apartments. The building itself has a very interesting history – it is a 100-year old whiskey blending and bottling facility! It is a new property, so everything in the apartment is brand new too, which is a great advantage!
Other Accommodation Options in Fishtown/Northern Liberties:
Things to Do in Fishtown/Northern Liberties
- Tour Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site to see where the writer lived and examine related exhibits
- Have a picnic in Penn Treaty Park and enjoy the river views
- Dine at popular restaurants in the area, including Lebanese Suraya, American Kensington Quarters, and Pizzeria Beddia
- Have a cocktail, beer, or wine during Happy Hour (Mon – Fri from 5 pm to 7 pm) at the Bottle Bar East hangout
6. South Philadelphia – best for foodies
If you wonder where to stay in Philadelphia for the best dining, South Philly is your answer! Just go to East Passyunk Avenue, it is the foodie’s hotspot! Also, be sure to check an Italian Market! Covering nearly a dozen city blocks along South 9th Street and operating every day, the market will stretch your hiking capabilities to their limits!
This South Philadelphia neighborhood is more residential and it is about 30 minutes to get to the downtown by public transport. So, if intending to combine first-class culinary experience and extensive sightseeing, stay in the northern parts of South Philly.
The spacious apartment comes with a rooftop deck and a friendly host willing to share tips for your Philadelphia trip. If you need to get some work done, make good use of a quiet workplace with wifi. Given that the open-air cinema is your thing, benefit from the movie projector on the roof deck when air temperatures are comfortable.
Other Accommodation Options in South Philly:
Things to Do in South Philadelphia
- Browse stalls, bakeries, and shops lining the Italian Market
- Purchase naturally-grown produce and a variety of meats on Dickinson Square Park’s Farmers Market
- Wander cobblestone streets and admire few-century old homes in neighboring Society Hill
- Appreciate the alternative atmosphere and shop antiques along South Street
- Relax in a hammock in the Spruce Street Harbor Park and visit the Korean War Memorial Park nearby
BONUS: things you should know before visiting Philadelphia
When deciding where to stay in Philadelphia, keep in mind the following:
- You probably come to Philadelphia to tour attractions, among other things. If so, consider buying the Go Philadelphia pass to save money and skip lines at some attractions.
- If you stay in the downtown area (Old City, Center City/Midtown Village, and Rittenhouse Square), you might need to use public transport only now and then. When staying in other areas, rely on SEPTA, a highly-efficient network incorporating rail, trolleys, and buses. To easily get between downtown attractions, check out Philly Phlash, a tourist-friendly service costing US$5 a day.
- You don’t need to worry about personal safety when staying in the areas I listed. The only potential exception may be side streets in Northern Liberties during the night. Some other areas in Philadelphia you should avoid lay north of Fishtown and south of South Philly.
- The best time to visit Philly is typically late spring and early fall. Then, you can dress lightly, but secure layered clothing, just in case. Summers tend to be hot, while winter temperatures plummet below the freezing point.
Thanks for reading this post, guys, I truly hope it was useful and you were able to better understand how the city is built and which area you would prefer to stay in.
To wrap up, here are two hotels that I can really recommend: At The Rittenhouse Hotel, you can quickly switch from soaking sun rays in the garden to training at the fitness center to sampling specialty drinks. As for Morris House, not everyone gets to sleep at a historic landmark, don’t you agree?
I hope you enjoyed reading the article and found it useful for your Philadelphia experience. Also, do check out Miss Tourist’s New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles guides to get ideas for some of your next trips.
Have a great time in Philadelphia!